Needless to say, he was the best fantasy quarterback of 2019. But repeating as the top quarterback isn’t easy. Since 2002, the first year the league expanded to 32 teams, only one quarterback, Drew Brees, has been the top fantasy option under center in back-to-back years (2011 and 2012). Plus, Jackson said in April he doesn’t envision running as much this year or beyond.
“I doubt if I’m going to be carrying the ball a lot going on in the future,” Jackson said via the team’s website. “We’ve got dynamic running backs. We’re going to have even more receivers. We’ve got Hollywood [Brown], Mark Andrews, Nick [Boyle], Willie Snead, Miles [Boykin]. We’re going to be pretty good. I don’t think I’ll be running a lot.”
A reduction in rushing attempts will almost certainly depress Jackson’s fantasy value. He scored a third of his fantasy points on the ground and if you take those away he would drop from the first to fourth-best fantasy quarterback of 2019. We wouldn’t expect Jackson to get zero points from rushing attempts this season -- I have him projected to rush for 800 yards and four touchdowns in 2020, equaling an average of six fantasy points per game -- but it is worth noting the third quarterback taken in this year’s fantasy drafts (12-team, point-per-reception leagues) is Dak Prescott (average draft position of a mid fifth-round pick) and the fourth quarterback selected is Russell Wilson (early sixth round). If we look solely at passing performance from last year, Jackson’s two weeks as the No. 1 best fantasy passer and seven times among the Top 5 is not that much different than Wilson or Prescott from a passing-only perspective. In other words, using a second-round pick (or higher) on Jackson doesn’t appear to be great value for the upcoming season if he is going to be running less.
2019 passing fantasy performance
Total passing points
Times as No. 1 QB
Times among Top 5 QB
264.3 (17.6 per week)
So what is fair value for Jackson? That depends. The experts aggregated at Fantasy Pros have him ranked no worse than the sixth-best quarterback of 2020. In thousands of fantasy football mock drafts taking place between Aug. 29 and Aug. 31 Jackson is selected 23rd overall and we can be 95 percent certain he will be drafted somewhere within the first 30 picks. My own fantasy forecast, which adjusts for injury and strength of schedule, has Jackson ranked at No. 46 overall. And if we expect Jackson to score six fantasy points per game on the ground that should only be three more than we would expect from Prescott or Wilson. Jackson’s still the second-highest ranked quarterback after Patrick Mahomes (No. 27 overall) but this ranking better reflects his 2020 outlook.
For example, the Ravens played a defensive line rated in the top third of the league just three times last season, per the defensive metrics available at Football Outsiders: the New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers and and New England Patriots. This year they will face four teams with defensive lines projected to end the season among the top third of the NFL, the Washington Football Team, Cincinnati Bengals, Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers. Baltimore will also play two of those teams, the Bengals and Steelers, twice this season. Overall the Ravens have the second-toughest schedule against the run and third-toughest against the pass in 2020 when you average the ranks of the upcoming defensive lines, secondaries and linebacking corps.
Barring a major injury it doesn’t appear Jackson’s fantasy draft value will decline any time soon, making the smart play to let another owner reach for him in the second or third round, when he’s likely to be selected. Instead use that second-round pick on a running back like Kenyon Drake or Aaron Jones if he’s still on the board. Then pursue a quarterback later in the draft. Matt Ryan (late seventh-round pick), Aaron Rodgers (eighth round) and Josh Allen (ninth round) could all provide good value at those spots.